Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Take Two: Big Ten's next expansion move
By Brian Bennett and Adam Rittenberg
Big Ten bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett will occasionally give their takes on a burning question facing the league. We'll both have strong opinions, but not necessarily the same view. We'll let you decide which blogger is right.
Expansion winds are blowing again with Texas A&M's apparently imminent departure to the SEC potentially setting off a chain reaction. So today's Take Two topic is this: What should the Big Ten's next move be as the conference chess pieces are again put into play?
Take 1: Adam Rittenberg
The Big Ten shouldn't take its eye off the board, but the league can't just start stacking up pawns, either. The league doesn't want to expand again and would only do so reluctantly as others (SEC, Pac-12) explore the superconference model. Let's remember that the Big Ten's last two additions, Nebraska and Penn State, are home runs from a branding standpoint. Let's also remember, and this part is really important, that the Big Ten isn't going to compromise its academic reputation just to bring in elite athletic programs. While some Pac-12 presidents and chancellors feel the same way, it's more of a deal breaker in the Big Ten than it appears to be in the Pac-12. That's why Oklahoma probably isn't a realistic option. Oklahoma State and Texas Tech certainly are not. If the Big Ten is forced to expand, it would look for schools that fit academically, culturally and athletically, and preferably are located in or near major markets. While there aren't many home runs out there, schools like Maryland and Rutgers fit the description. I still believe the only endgame where the Big Ten can expand and truly add major value is by bringing in Notre Dame. The landscape might change so much that Notre Dame has to join a conference, and if that's the case, the Big Ten should pounce.
Take 2: Brian Bennett
I agree that Notre Dame is the best addition, and the rise of superconferences may be the one thing that finally convinces the Irish to let go of their cherished independence. The Big Ten should be putting the full-court press on South Bend. While the Big Ten doesn't want to expand and I personally don't like the idea of mega-conferences, the league also doesn't want to be left picking at scraps after the SEC and Pac-24 gets first dibs. That's why the conference ought to be proactive here and go after some big fish. What's wrong with Oklahoma? The school might not exactly be Harvard, but it's not a community college, either. Besides, Big Ten presidents apparently had no problem inviting Nebraska before voting to kick it out of the AAU. Oklahoma could resume its rivalry with the Cornhuskers in the Big Ten while both thumb their noses at Texas. Missouri also makes perfect sense geographically and culturally despite whatever burnt bridges exist from the last expansion go-round. This is business, not personal. If I'm the Big Ten, I go all out right now for Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Missouri and one team from the East, whether it's Maryland, Rutgers, Syracuse, Pitt or whoever. Tell me that 16-team superconference wouldn't be impressive.